Rats, damp and mould are three of the problems causing concern for parents living in council-owned properties in Stanmer.
They are worried for their children’s health and their own.
The tenants have taken up their concerns with Brighton and Hove City Council, so far to no avail. They even set these out in a plaintive deputation to a meeting of the full council in the Victorian chamber at Brighton Town Hall. It had feudal undertones.
The council lets the properties through the Brighton and Hove Estates Conservation Trust which has also proved similarly unwilling to help.
When tenants had the temerity to ask their landlords to maintain the listed properties in the way set out in their tenancy agreement, they were shocked by the response.
The trust tried to put up their rents by 15 to 20 per cent, contrary to the terms of their tenancy agreements, and threatened to evict them.
At a meeting on Monday, residents noted the irony of the huge proposed rent rises. These, after all, are being made on behalf of a council where the ruling Greens with Labour support passed a motion calling for private landlords to cap rent rises.
And politicians of all parties, including local MPs, spoke out against revenge evictions in Parliament last week. The threats made to the Stanmer tenants are a perfect example of this immoral practice.
If Charles Dickens were alive today, he could do worse than take a stroll around the chocolate box village and talk to the tenants.
He would surely have contrasted the outer elegance and the inner decay. And this overseen by a council which proclaims a set of values that include openness, respect and customer focus.
The tenants would like a seat on the board of the trust. It may test the council’s commitment to accountability.
For having prevailed upon tenants to admit a surveyor to their homes, the trust has refused to share his findings with those who ultimately foot the bill.
The independent councillor Christina Summers has taken up the fight but her efforts this far appear to have been frustrated.
Dickens came to Brighton to write. He knew how to describe the magnificence of a Bleak House and the gulf that can separate the law and justice. He would have found plenty to inspire him in Stanmer.
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